Armenian Heritage Park hits a Fenway homer
Published: Thursday November 24, 2011
Boston - Throughout the past century, Fenway Park has served as the home of the Boston Red Sox with many an auspicious moment to be celebrated.
Now it's served as the center of another attraction --- the much-anticipated Armenian Heritage Park.
A crowd of 250 turned out November 17 on the upper deck of the stadium for a fund-raising reception that pooled $100,000 in endowment money. The proceeds inched closer to the $6.2 million goal which is expected to be met by April 24th when a genocide observance is planned on the site, culminating a near-decade dream.
The memorial is currently under construction on the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway, within proximity of Boston's historic Faneuil Hall. It will pay tribute to the 1.5 million martyrs as well as those immigrants who distinguished themselves in all phases of the Armenian community while adding to the richness of American life and culture.
"It's people like you that will make it possible to create the endowments for programs in this park, including the perpetual care and maintenance," George Elanjian, chairman, All Gifts Campaign, told the gathering. "When finished, this park will be the jewel of the RFK Greenway which will reflect our past, present and future."
The evening wasn't complete without the special recognition of two invited guests: veteran sportscaster Bob Lobel and former Massachusetts Transportation Secretary Jeff Mullan. Both received gifts from Elanjian and Armenian Heritage Foundation President James Kalustian, who were more than generous in their praise.
"They've contributed immensely to the enhancement of Boston's development in their own special way," lauded Kalustian. "This memorial is the result of everybody together in the true spirit of unity. When people work toward a common cause, we can realize our ambitions."
Kalustian further applauded Gov. Duval Patrick for helping make the project a reality as it shifted from one gubernatorial election to another.
Lobel showed up on crutches, the result of a degenerate muscle disorder. He was accompanied by close friend David Aykanian, president, Precision Fitness Equipment, who supplied services to the iconic TV announcer.
Since leaving Channel 4, Lobel is back on the air with an all-new television program called "Sports Legends New England," interviewing some of New England's biggest heroes.
Taking the podium, he wasted no time in creating a stir by announcing Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian as the next skipper of the Boston Red Sox.
"Management could do a lot worse," he joked with a smile.
Lobel felt at home here in more ways than one. He warmed up to the crowd and chatted awhile with former Emmy Award-winning meteorologist Mish Michaels whose married name is Atamian.
"This has to be the friendliest place I've ever been," he admitted. "I'm a little overwhelmed by all this. The cause is genuine."
"Human rights is something we must embrace throughout our daily lives," he added. "This memorial is a tribute to the generations who endured many hardships to make America the land of their dreams. It fits the project. I can't wait to see the Labyrinth."
Despite his ailment, Lobel has a vision. He wants to walk that Labyrinth at Heritage Park which celebrates his "journey of life," whether it's with crutches or not.
"It's very spiritual," he added. "For Boston, it's another proud moment, a wonderful gift. Whoever thought of it deserves a lot of credit."
Lobel was moved by a documentary he had seen on The Armenian Genocide and implores the United States to officially recognize this moment in history.
"It's one of those untold stories of horror," he pointed out. "At what level will people go to gain power? It continues today. To ignore it would be a travesty."
As for Mish Michaels, married to an Armenian seems to be setting well for the former meteorologist. She's now an artist with a T-shirt company to boot and very much attuned to her new ethnic surroundings.
Mullan's efforts toward the project proved invaluable from the inception. Prior to serving as Secretary of Transportation from 2009-2011, he was executive director of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority. He's been involved with the project since 2007.
"It's the best example of a public-private partnership you can find," he said. "The Armenian community generously gave the city of Boston a gift."
The path was not always smooth and laden with crevices.
"People who managed the Greenway didn't want it," he confessed. "The Turks didn't want it. There was a strong undercurrent. Even Mayor (Thomas) Menino had some reservations about the project before finally coming around to support it. At the end of the day, this became a state asset. The Armenian community should be proud of what's been accomplished here."
Mullen said the monument will touch all nations who have endured hardship, not just the Armenians.
"It'll remain a beacon of peace and harmony throughout the world," he noted. "People will be attracted to it because it affects us all. It will remind us all that the events surrounding 1915 should never be repeated."
Koutoujian showed his usual exuberance in opening the program. He continues to remain an avid component of the endeavor and helped mightily with legislative issues while a state representative before becoming sheriff.
"There are so many milestones in Boston and this will be among them," he emphasized. "The photos you now see set their own stage of development, one step at a time."
He was joined at the dais by Rachel Kaprielian, former state representative and now Registrar of Motor Vehicles. Together, the two co-hosted many a genocide commemoration on Beacon Hill.
Kaprielian praised those like Mullan for their initiative in getting the project off the ground and running.
"I feel very fortunate to have worked with people like that," she brought out.
Background music was performed by the John Baboian Ensemble. A buffet line conformed to the surroundings. On the menu were Fenway franks and chili.
Guests toured the park and lingered throughout the evening, rekindling friendships while supporting an earnest cause.